We live in the age of instant gratification. Consumers know what they want, and they expect to find it – and get it – now. To keep up and remain competitive, retailers have to be agile. That means getting the products consumers want into the store as quickly as possible, often within a few weeks of concept.
This is particularly true in the fashion business, where established luxury brands have faced fierce competition from quick-moving competitors like H&M. In fact, speed has become such a critical factor, consulting firm McKinsey recommends the industry transform its thinking and redefine its processes to cut its time to market.
It’s a recommendation that retailers should pay attention to, as well. At the core of McKinsey’s advice is better collaboration, which yields not only more relevant products in stores, but also higher organizational productivity. In a tight labor market, retailers have much to gain by transforming their processes.
With the right tools, retailers can improve collaboration and bring more relevant products onto their shelves in record time. The key? Unified communications. With better collaboration tools, retailers break down internal silos and streamline processes with manufacturers and suppliers. The result is a stronger connection with customers.
In a number of ways, UC connects teams and eliminates silos so retailers can put customer-focused products in stores more quickly.
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Better collaboration, smarter decisions. In luxury fashion, two groups bear the responsibility of launching a product line: finance and creative. According to McKinsey, the teams work in parallel, which means they may not be collaborating along the way. But, at the same time, each team makes decisions that significantly impact the other. If they don’t share information at key moments, the consequences – such as higher costs, a mismatch in pricing and unwanted merchandise – are high.
Poor collaboration affects retailers, too. By the time internal teams meet to discuss new product lines, they may have traveled too far down widely divergent paths. With UC tools like video conferencing in place, however, team members can click to start a conversation at any stage, eliminating some of the conflicts that might otherwise appear later in the process.
Features such as web chat allow teams to work closely together, in real-time — even if a company’s operations are far-flung. If a store in one market sees consumer demand for a particular product, the staff can open a chat to discuss it with buyers at the home office.
Fast design, faster feedback loop. Digital prototypes enable manufacturers to share their designs with retailers immediately via video conference. As a result, buyers have the opportunity to weigh in early. They can even share prototypes with individual stores or their colleagues in other markets to gather comprehensive, real-time feedback. They get a true sense of supply and demand, information that’s useful not only to the retailer, but also to the fsil, who can price the item appropriately.
The customer marks the trend. Another way to streamline the process is to tap into the zeitgeist of fashion-forward customers. With CRM integrated into the unified communications solution, retailers have access to a valuable source of customer feedback and opinion. Paired with sales data, the manufacturer gets a better sense of what’s trending and what’s falling out of style.
The social source of consumer desires. Another way to identify trends is to integrate social media into the contact center. That allows agents to track customer whims in real time, which in turn helps retailers and manufacturers develop designs that align with changing preferences.
As consumers demand instant gratification, retailers can’t afford to sit back and wait to see how tastes evolve. They need to tap into every information source possible and put the data into the hands of their internal teams. With UC, they foster higher levels of sharing and collaboration. As a result, they can pivot the moment consumer demand for a particular product rises. By transforming their process, they reduce the time it takes for an item to appear in stores, a move that makes them far more competitive.